We’ve all heard of driving while Black, walking while Black, jogging while Black and even shopping while Black—but sports teaming while Black might be a new one, at least in the 21st century.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that a Delaware HBCU’s women’s lacrosse team was pulled over while returning from Florida last month by cops who had no probable cause and no reason to suspect the team had done anything wrong outside of the fact that most of the team members are Black, according to the team’s head coach.
“(The deputy) quickly went to marijuana, which stereotypically is unfortunately associated with African Americans,” Delaware State University lacrosse team coach Pamella Jenkins said Monday. “That’s the first thing that he went to.”
The incident took place on April 20, and who knows if the marijuana suspicion had anything to do with the 4/20 smoker’s holiday, but it doesn’t matter because the cops found nothing illegal on anyone. It would be a hard sell for the officers to claim this wasn’t an incident of racial profiling. Because what other reason is there to go after this bus in particular? High school and college sports teams primarily travel by bus. There’s nothing out of the ordinary about it. So what’s the reason deputies and a police dog targeted this bus?
A video recorded by someone on the bus shows a deputy asking the team to tell them now if anyone has marijuana, devices to smoke or weigh it or other “questionable” items.
One student asked the deputies why they wanted to search the bus, Jenkins said. The deputy said that they frequently find drugs or human trafficking during traffic stops, the coach recalled.
“If there’s nothing, I’m thankful. That makes my life easier about getting this done and we’ll have you guys on your way,” a deputy said in the video.
As many as six deputies and a police dog searched the team’s luggage without their permission, Jenkins said. Nothing illegal was found, the coach said. The encounter took at least 30 minutes, Jenkins said. The students were silent afterwards.
Jenkins’ story seems legit at least. Only a cop would think “I’ve pulled people over and found drugs before” is an excuse to pull vehicles over at random and search them without cause. And this was a bus with reportedly 25 students on board, many of whom were in their school gear, according to AJC. We’re really supposed to believe these cops didn’t just see a bus full of Black people and say, “Wait, that don’t look right. Do Black people even play lacrosse?” (That last part might be a stretch, but I’m just saying.)
“I think the biggest surprise was seeing the dogs immediately pulled out regardless of what the citation was going to be,” said Emily Campanelli, a senior lacrosse player at the university, according to The Hornet Newspaper. “That shows the immediate effects of driving while black, especially through southern states and it makes you wonder how many people this happens to on a daily basis and how many people experience this worse than us. I truly believe that it was an illegal search and seizure because there was no probable cause to search the bags, there was no evidence or smell. He immediately saw a group of athletic girls teams and should have let us continue, but because the majority of the team are black women it was a different result. It is a sad day we had to encounter, but I’m glad everyone came outside.”
Saniya Craft, another team member who happens to be a relative of Elijah McClain, who was killed by Colorado police in 2019, also had something to say about the incident.
“As a family member of Elijah McClain, I’ve realized what happens when police take advantage of their privilege and compromise their job,” Craft said. “After seeing the police brutally murder my relative, I was petrified for what would happen to my teammates and I. As women of color, we are constantly facing adversity and this was an incident we had to overcome together.”
Meanwhile, the sheriff’s office said “its internal affairs office is investigating the stop and plans to release a statement,” AJC reported, and Delaware State University President Tony Allen, posted a letter Monday saying he was “incensed” by the incident.
“We do not intend to let this or any other incident like it pass idly by,” he said. “We are prepared to go wherever the evidence leads us. We have video. We have allies. Perhaps more significantly, we have the courage of our convictions.”
Ultimately the question here is: Can we do literally anything while Black?
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